Capsize and sinking of stern trawler Ocean Way with loss of 3 lives

Location: 100 miles north-east of Tynemouth, England.

Accident Investigation Report 23/2015

Investigation report into marine accident including what happened, safety lessons and recommendations made:

MAIB investigation report 23-2015: Ocean Way

Annexes to MAIB report 23/2015

Fishing vessel Ocean Way FR349


Ocean Way, a 17m twin rig stern trawler built in 1974, capsized and sank while on passage, in high following seas. Two of its crew of five survived, the skipper’s body was recovered but the bodies of the other two crewmen were not found.

The vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) activated at the time of the capsize but the EPIRB was not fitted with integral Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and its location was not confirmed until 47 minutes later at which time rescue helicopters were tasked.

MAIB commissioned an underwater ROV survey of the wreck which found that its two liferafts had probably become trapped inside the vessel during the accident and were unable to float free and inflate. It was also found that the freeing ports (openings on either side of the vessel which allow water to be shed from the deck) had been reduced in size over the course of the vessel’s life.

The investigation concluded that the vessel’s stability had been adversely affected due to the weight of entrapped water on its deck which came from the heavy following seas and had capsized as a result.

Safety lessons

  • if Ocean Way’s EPIRB had been fitted with an integral GNSS receiver the rescue services would have arrived sooner
  • the water trapped on deck had an adverse effect on stability. Had the freeing ports been of the correct size and functioning this water would have been able to drain away more quickly
  • had the shelter been made weathertight the amount of trapped water could have been significantly reduced
  • quartering seas create a broaching risk for well-found vessels and can be exceptionally hazardous to vessels with marginal stability


A recommendation (2015/154) has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to take action to ensure that the EPIRBs required to be carried on UK registered fishing vessels are equipped with integral GNSS receivers. The MCA has revised its instructions to surveyors regarding freeing ports and the requirement for inclining tests, it has also reviewed coastguard training procedures in relation to incident co-ordination.

A safety accident flyer highlighting a number of the safety issues was produced for this report.

Published 18 November 2015